When you have been disillusioned by years of bad Tony Hawk games, and if the Trials did not do much for you, there are some alternatives to pull off some rad platform stunt work. FutureGrind is one of those alternatives, and it’s worth checking out.

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FutureGrind was first revealed back in 2014. It popped back up on everyone’s screen in October when it was announced that it was coming to the Nintendo Switch as well as PC and PS4. I myself am drawn to anything that’s colourful, but the game has my interest and engagement thanks to a very simple, yet potentially fun core mechanic.

That is the most surprising thing about this indie title. It is diabolically simple in its gameplay. But despite this, it provides a substantial and entertaining challenge to one’s control, timing, and real-time decision making.

FutureGrind review - Riding the rails 8

FutureGrind is a difficult game if underestimated. The first few levels of the campaign serve as a space to not only familiarise yourself with the physics and the general layout but also to refine even the most basic techniques of your manoeuvrability. If you were to simply ride the highest rail without flipping or even diverging from an upright position, the later levels will punish you for your defiance (though I can already see the eventual walkthroughs where people do exactly that on the hardest of maps).

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Once you are on the move, the game gets more interesting and dynamic with the introduction of different factors. Players can make use of explosive orbs that propel them into the air. Shining diamonds that change the colour of your wheels mid-air, and floating donuts that change the colour of the rails that you are about to land on.

And then there is the range of different type vehicles to play with, each sporting a unique aspect that can completely alter one’s playstyle, and flying fast and loose with the physics. I especially like the Gimbal: a bike that looks like a chair lift and whose unequal weight distribution means that your pivots can happen at higher speeds, and you can pull off impressive-looking balancing acts.

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Accessibility and delivery are defining keywords behind the interface and the completion of levels. Should you miss a rail and end up on the ground in a fiery wreckage, one touch of a button will put you back at the start line and ready to go in a split second. The controls are straightforward and while a keyboard will serve you fine, I would recommend the controller for a more comfortable experience.

The quality of simplicity extends into FutureGrind’s aesthetic and storyline. I use the term storyline loosely because there is not much of it, and I highly suspect that it is aware of how little you care about it. Character interactions and the narrative are placed directly into the game’s interface, and not wasting the player’s time with cutscenes or non-gameplay levels.

Very little dialogue is present, and the game makes clever use of visual cues that something very bad is going on. The menu starts to flicker with static and the interactions between you and the NPCs clearly indicate that you are being watched. The game knows why you are here. To ride a bike and pull off some bad-ass stuntwork, and not much else.

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My reaction to FutureGrind’s visuals is that of some disappointment, as the premise of bikes that ride on light rails suspended in the air could make for some gorgeous cyberpunk imagery. Instead, and in line with simplicity, the backdrops are dulled abstractions and generic. This does work in favour of the player’s senses, as one would prefer to not be constantly distracted when flying through the air. No flashing lights or brash sound effects. but a lot more creativity could have gone into this. I also wish that the soundtrack by Nignic, while being very good, would include a few more tracks as the constant repetition of the game’s music can get on the nerves.

I would also have had harsh words for this game if it had gone down the well-worn path of a sports underdog story. Instead we have the next old thing: An EVIL corporation is looking to use you and your railing skills for their nefarious deeds. While later levels will reveal to you that this EVIL corporation means business, they can go so far as to distort your world as you know it. Cliched, but this element can be excused as it remains secondary and does not at all impact the speed at which you progress through the levels.

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However, that progression comes to a close quite quickly. The campaign is not that big and while you will be able to duke it out against other people in the score leaderboards, FutureGrind does not make a strong case for repeat playthroughs. That may be given with this kind of gameplay, but an expansion of a multiplayer setup would have been beneficial.

Remaining on point, I applaud FutureGrind for getting so much out of the straightforward rail-riding mechanic. It is a unique experience, it offers a real challenge for players, and when mastered the gameplay does result in some damn good feelings of satisfaction.

Last Updated: January 24, 2019

FutureGrind
FutureGrind may only be made up of some bright colours, but it delivers a solid and challenging experience in the platforming genre. Simple mechanics and a selection of dynamic gameplay styles result in a satisfying playthrough.
7.5
/10
FutureGrind was reviewed on PC

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